"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thankful Every Day

It's Thanksgiving season here in the United States. This holiday often gets overlooked in America because everyone is in such a hurry to get to the Christmas festivities. However, it's still one of my favorite holidays. This is a special time to celebrate your loved ones, friends, fortunes, and good food.

As a thank-you to my readers and fellow bloggers, I wanted to share a short Thanksgiving romantic fiction piece I wrote (about 800 words). I hope you enjoy!


Thankful Every Day

Grace stepped back after placing the last dish upon the table. The smell of roasted turkey filled the air. Her customary dressing, green beans, rolls, and chocolate chip cookies sat nearby. Why had she thought cooking a full Thanksgiving meal would make her feel better?
Tears stung, “It’s just the onions,” she whispered to the empty room. For the first time in more than twenty years her home was quiet on this holiday.
I’ll just watch an old movie, maybe read a good book, and enjoy all this food. At least leftovers will mean I won’t have to leave the house on Black Friday.
Knocking at the door startled her.
She walked quickly to the side window to peek out. Who on earth…
“Grace, it’s me.”
“Bill?” she swung the door wide. “I thought you would be in Louisiana with your daughter and her family?”
“Me too. Her husband called early this morning. She and the girls have the flu.”
“That’s terrible.”
He grunted his agreement and then took in the scene at the table. “I’m sorry if I’ve interrupted. I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Nonsense, you’re not interrupting. You’re staying for a proper Thanksgiving. I hope you’re hungry.” She pulled Bill further into the room so she could close the door behind him.
A look of relief crossed his face before he smiled at her. His smile soon turned to a light chuckle.
“What?”
He reached out a large callused hand and cupped her cheek briefly before wiping her nose and chin with his thumb. Sensations jolted through her and it was all she could do to prevent herself from leaning into him.
“Flour,” his voice seemed somehow thicker when he removed a white powdered hand from her face.
Grace laughed nervously. Why did she feel anxious and giddy? She had known Bill for years. He was the best neighbor a single mother could hope for. His daughter was a few years older than her two girls. Bill had already been a widow when she moved here. He helped her keep her house in working order, and she had helped his daughter with more feminine tasks such as picking out prom dresses, shoe shopping, and boy gossip. Since those earliest days, they had all been good friends.
Now, the girls were all grown. His daughter with a family of her own, and both of her girls were off to college, the youngest having just left in September. Grace shook her head to dispel the sadness.
“Let’s wash up. Then we can eat.”
As they ate, they visited about changes to each family over the years.
“Do you ever think about getting remarried?” he asked her later over cookies and coffee.
“I don’t know if I could. You?”
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.”
She stared into his grey eyes with the familiar laugh lines around the edges. He was so very attractive. She felt a tinge of something she couldn’t quite identify and she frowned.
“Is something wrong?”
“No,” she drew out the word before continuing. “Honestly, I’ve been a little surprised that someone hasn’t lassoed you yet. I just assumed you were a committed bachelor.”
“I have been, but now I’m hoping to be committed to someone.”
“Oh,” unease spread through her limbs. I bet it’s Ms. Hanks from church. She’s always doting on him, bringing casseroles and pies by his house. She should probably be happy for the two of them, but somehow she felt something closer to jealousy and anger. He had been a part of her life for so long now. She had come to rely on Bill, and expect him to be around. She was being selfish and he was staring at her intently. “I’ll clean up while you turn on the television. The Cowboys game should be starting soon.”
“Grace,” he grabbed her hand when she started to rise. She fell back into her chair, unable to meet his gaze. “The truth is, I’ve been committed to this woman for a long time now, but I was afraid she wasn’t ready.”
She looked up when he didn’t say anything more. He still held her hand and seemed to be waiting for her to speak. She swallowed hard before offering a smile. “Don’t worry, Bill. I’m sure she’ll accept.”
“Will you?”
Her shock must have been obvious. He squeezed her hand.
“Grace, I’ve been thankful every day since you moved in that you were a part of my life. We practically raised our girls together. I love you and I want you by my side for the rest of our days.”

It took a moment to find her voice, but the anxiety evident in his eyes helped. “I love you too, and I’ll be thankful every day I get to be your wife.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Writing for Veterans

Thank-you to all veterans and active military. We may not show it enough, but you are so very appreciated!
A few years ago my interview of Vietnam War Veteran and author Tim O’Brien appeared in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 2. Since then, the publishers have continued the tradition of supporting our troops.

This yearly anthology presents essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, and photography by military-service personnel, veterans, and their families. It is an annual series published by Southeast Missouri State University Press in cooperation with the Missouri Humanities Council's Veterans Projects and the Warriors Arts Alliance. 

"The stories and poems of service and sacrifice are essential in understanding what has so broadly been termed 'the American experience.' For me, Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors is required reading and worthy of a thousand tears."     ―St. Leger Monty Joynes, veteran, Vietnam
Books can now be ordered from the Southeast Missouri State University Press and Amazon. 

Interested in submitting to Volume 7? They are already accepting submissions which are due by June 1, 2018. Contests and prizes will be awarded in each of the five categories. To learn more, please visit:  http://www.semopress.com/events/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/

Interested in more "support America" reads? Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers have several books honoring veterans and their families as well. Try some of their titles such as: Military Families and The Spirit of America.

Interested in reading more veteran related material? Try Noir and Returning War Vet Sub-Genre, or Being a Veteran.

Have you written with our military in mind? What military reads would you recommend?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

3 Goals for Creating Better Villains

About a month ago I wrote a post called Crafting the VillainIn it, I mentioned the three types of villains I found most interesting and briefly discussed my own goals in creating better villains. 

Today, I thought I would share three goals I’ve been attempting to follow when fleshing out my manuscripts this month.

     1.      Give the villain purpose – their goal should be noble in their own minds and both believable and understandable if not outright condoned by the reader. They can’t just exist to be against the hero. Why are these two on opposing sides? What led them to make the villainous choices? Are they a more noble villain such as Robin Hood who steals from the rich to save the poor? Or are they motivated by betrayal such as in the Disney reimagining of Maleficient? Remember, your villain believes they are in the right. Making their intentions logical and relatable even when corrupt or unjust creates a complicated and interesting situation. The lines between good and evil will blur. The reader may well find themselves rooting for the villains success even as they root for the hero to prevail.
2.      Make them human – even if they possess out of this world powers or abilities, they should be relatable. They have emotions, quirks, and struggles, just like your other characters. No one was always 100% evil. Think about Anakin Skywalker: “there is still good in him”. Or Frankenstein’s monster. Even after the most hideous crimes, they were still capable of a selfless act and audiences wanted them to succeed. Why? Because they were relatable. Their loneliness, depression, and mistakes endeared them to us. If your villain is a group instead of an individual, choose an individual to represent the larger corporation or government body. That representative becomes your humanizing influence.
     3.      Make them create conflict – of course intentionally, but I like the idea of unintentional as well. Whether your antagonist is simply a liar and a cheat, or an outright mass murderer, decide early on how they contradict the hero’s goal(s). Then decide how badly your villain craves their own goal? Is it enough to hurt a few others, unlimited numbers, or even their own loved ones? Every villain has something or someone they care about and would save. What is your villain’s? What happens when their goal costs them what they treasure most? Think of Loki after his mother dies.

Most writers focus on how the stakes affect the hero, but what about the stakes for the villain? How do these circumstances affect their loved ones, or the fate of the world? Great villains are just as complicated, relatable, and even likable as the heroes. That’s what makes them memorable.

Who are some of your favorite villains? Why?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

November is here, and we are preparing for Thanksgiving in the United States. You can read my article  Hassle Free Thanksgiving Planning in the November issue of Thrive.

However, this also means Christmas is right around the corner. Many people, and especially stores, seem to gloss right over Thanksgiving and head straight into the Christmas season. Hallmark channels are already playing Christmas movies 24/7 - and yes I'm one of the sappy females already watching and recording them.

My house may be decorated for Thanksgiving now, but I am also enjoying several Christmas books as well. I would like to recommend a new release: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas.

A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger...and love?

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of five hundred pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancĂ©, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Pour a cup of tea and settle in for Book 1 of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series--a page-turning Victorian-era holiday tale--by Michelle Griep, a reader and critic favorite.

Reminiscent of an Agatha Christie book, this tale is a quick and moderately enjoyable read. Fans of the movies Murder by Death and Clue may enjoy it as well. 

This book started out strong, but about half way through it some of the circumstances and character reasoning no longer worked for me. I didn't feel as strong a connection to the atmosphere or people in the second half of the book. Characters and situations became too predictable, and the ending was only moderately satisfying and believable. An interesting twist happens, but I never felt like that was fully fleshed out.

This was still a light and somewhat enjoyable read that I think others may enjoy. The cover design and packaging were beautifully appropriate to the genre of the book. Overall, I would give this story 3.5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review

Are you preparing for Thanksgiving, and/or enjoying the beginnings of the Christmas season?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

IWSG: NaNoWriMo Participation

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

NOVEMBER QUESTION: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

MY ANSWER: I tried NaNo about three times. I didn't finish any of them because each of those years, my youngest daughter went into the hospital in November. While logically I know this had nothing to do with NaNo, I'm almost too superstitious to try it again. I do see the appeal of writing under deadline with a daily goal, but that system doesn't work for everyone. I know several authors who met the 50,000 word goal, however, the result was mostly trash because they gave up on the story just trying to get words on paper. They never went back to those projects. Likewise, I know several people that method worked well for, and yes they went on to publish those projects (buth traditionally and self-pub). I'm a big believer in finding what works for you without feeling the need to compare yourself to others.

Have you tried NaNo? What has been your experience. Will you try it this year?